Fragmented Stories in Perspective

The Palace of Stories. That’s the name my friends and I settled on calling our first floor, two-bedroom/ basement apartment located in a modern gentrified Brooklyn building. We made it official by making it our WIFI name, so whenever someone visited and needed access, those words would display on their setting options in bold letters.

Friend: Hey, what’s your WIFI?


I think it worked out this way because we all agree that storytelling is important when it comes to understanding one’s perspective. It’s all about perspective! How one person chooses to decipher lots of fragmented information, and relay that info back to another. If I may briefly compare this concept to that of an investigation; one gathers evidence to prove yet another guilty or not guilty, true or false, just or unjust. Nevertheless, it is all based on the perspective of the one creating the story. Each fragment of content gives the creator the information needed to mold the perfect story for its audience to see. The key is in the evidence, I mean details. It’s supplementary information that makes the story real, true, believable even. The audience has to believe.

In moments I question why Louis Armstrong felt the need to record his life. Why did he collect fragments of evidence in recordings, clippings, photos, and journals, almost as if to prove his existence? He was influential, extraordinary even, and yet in some way I still wonder if he felt that his story needed to not only be told, rather understood. Believed!

During his life Louis recorded several hundred reel to reel tapes that were left in the home after he and his wife Lucille Armstrong had passed away. The contents of these tapes included Louis practicing, talking with his friends, telling jokes, amongst other things. Ricky Riccardi, the archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archive, often says that “Louis wanted to be sure he could tell his own story.” These audiotape recordings play a major role in the portrayal of his life, the perspective that the evidence was gathered from. How did Louis want to tell his story? Better yet, if Louis were still living in today’s world, how would he use the hundreds of recordings he made? Would it just be an opportunity to tell his own story, or would that story be told in relation to those Black and Brown people that are still being subjected to unjust treatment in the United States and around the world?

These are the ideas that geared me to use interviews, songs and fragments of other materials from our museum archive and external sources to create an artwork relating to the previously blog of NDA or Nonviolent Direct Art. This approach has been my way of telling stories, creating a specific perspective that I want to offer an audience. I believe Armstrong did this in his music, the way he sang “Black and Blue” and “They Say I Look Like God.” It was a part of his stage presence, his tonality, his deep connection with the portray of his message. 

With this information I share the audio artwork I created using Armstrongs song “Black and Blue”, and interviews of him with Orson Welles, David Frost, and speaking on the matters of Little Rock. It also includes fragments of previously shared clips from the archive that include reel to reel recording of MLK and an interview from NBC of Hosea Williams speaking of MLK’s assassination. The fragmented repetition found in the sound work, creates a seeming-less focus on detail and therefore plays a key element in the story I am attempting to tell. The work may impose a creative tension and then hopefully illustrates the injustices in which I seeking to address at this time. It features music by lyrists Versailles (Ver-Sigh)-The-Everything, a musician and rapper originally from Florida.

NDA_fragments by T. Lightbourn, 2021
LAHM Archive Objects

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